Cop who saved woman from fire named

By Patrice Dougan, Ruth Keber, Morgan Tait

Firefighters pictured at the scene of a house fire in Mt Maunganui tonight. Photo / Alan Gibson
Firefighters pictured at the scene of a house fire in Mt Maunganui tonight. Photo / Alan Gibson

The identity of a police officer who saved an elderly woman from a burning Tauranga house last night has been revealed.

Senior Constable Adrian Oldham was named by police today as the rescuer of the 77-year-old woman who collapsed in her smoke-filled home around 7pm yesterday.

Mr Oldham came across the burning single-storey house in Maranui Street, Mt Maunganui, on a routine patrol, and managed to smash a window to get into the house and rescue her.

He saved the woman's life by dragging her out of the property. She was later taken to hospital for treatment.

Mr Oldham was himself also treated for smoke inhalation afterwards.

The police officer was today on a scheduled day off, a police spokeswoman said, and had asked for rest following the ordeal. However, he will speak to media at Tauranga police station tomorrow.

Mr Oldham was driving down Maranui St about 6.45pm when he noticed the home engulfed in flames.

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As he approached the sliding doors, he saw the woman inside desperately trying to escape, but unable to open the locked door.

"Flames were coming out the windows of the bedroom and where the lady was was just thick black smoke," said Inspector Clifford Paxton of Western Bay of Plenty Police.

Mr Oldham tried to give her instructions to exit, but she fainted and "disappeared into the black smoke", Mr Paxton said.

Unable to break open the door, the officer kicked in a window at the side of the house so he could crawl inside and try to reach her.

"The police officer was struggling to breathe and was forced to go back to the window to get air.

"He had to go back out, take a big deep breathe and try to locate her again."

The smoke was so thick the officer could not see anything and could only feel his way along the ground, said Mr Paxton.

"After the second or third attempt he was able to locate her ... after 20 to 30 seconds of feeling around in the thick black smoke ... but he couldn't get her back out the window."

A second officer, a constable, arrived at the property and kicked in a second window.

"They lay their jackets down over top of the broken glass to drag this lady out through it."

Emergency services attend the Maranui Road fire.
Emergency services attend the Maranui Road fire.

The woman was unconscious when they carried her outside, but she became responsive again once outside.

Mr Paxton said the fire appeared to have started in a bedroom through an electrical problem and the woman fled into a lounge area to try to escape.

"We were very fortunate that our members were driving past at the time -- from what I understand the neighbours weren't aware of it at that time.

"We are very proud of their actions and very fortunate that they happened to be patrolling in the area at the time."

Tauranga fire station senior officer Mark Keller said they arrived at the Mt Maunganui residence to find one end of the home on fire.

If it was not for the police officer driving past the house the woman's fate would have been different, he said.

"She was struggling and had become disorientated with the smoke basically down to the floor.

"It was a very dangerous situation. It was at the point where she would have been overwhelmed with smoke and if he hadn't come to her aid it would have been a totally different outcome."

Bystander Dwane Scammell, 34, said he jumped the fence and helped the police carry the woman.

"The smoke was pretty hard-out, the smoke was so thick and black," he said.

The woman was in a stable condition in Tauranga Hospital being supported by family members.

One officer had been discharged with the other not requiring admission, Mr Paxton said.

Next story: Hero cops 'just going to the aid of a mate'

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